partlycloudy
Friday May 25th, 2018 4:44PM

Most of mudslide-stricken California town told to empty out

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

MONTECITO, Calif. (AP) — Most residents of mudslide-ravaged Montecito were under orders to clear out Friday as the search for victims dragged on and crews labored to clean up massive debris and repair power, water and gas lines.

Even those who didn't lose their homes in the disaster that left at least 18 people dead were told to leave for up to two weeks so they wouldn't interfere with the rescue and recovery operation.

It was another frustrating turn for those living in the Southern California town that has been subject to repeated evacuation orders in recent weeks, first because of a monster wildfire last month, then because of downpours and mudslides.

Cia Monroe said her family was lucky their home wasn't ruined and they were all healthy and safe, though her daughter lost one of her best friends.

But Monroe said it was stressful after evacuating three times during the wildfire to be packing up a fourth time. A family had offered them a room to stay overnight, but then they were looking at spending up to $3,000 a week for a hotel.

"Where do you go when you're a family of four and you don't have a second house?" Monroe asked, noting that some residents of town have third and fourth homes. "Financially that's a burden."

More than 1,200 workers taking part in the search and cleanup effort flooded into the town with a population of about 9,000.

Curious and concerned citizens who had trudged through the mud Thursday to view the devastation were nowhere to be seen as more firefighters in bright yellow rain gear searched methodically and utility crews in orange safety vests worked with chain saws and jackhammers.

A backhoe scooped up mud and rocks around buckled and flattened homes, while bulldozers cleared roads of tangled trees, muck and boulders. Tanker trucks were being used to haul off floodwaters sucked up from U.S. Highway 101, the crippled coastal route connecting Santa Barbara to Ventura.

Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said residents who had stayed behind or tried to check on damage in neighborhoods where homes were leveled and car-size boulders blocked roads and littered properties had hindered the recovery effort.

On Thursday, Brown expanded what was known as the public safety exclusion zone to incorporate most of the town. That meant even those who had stayed behind would have to leave and those who entered the zone would be subject to arrest.

Residents who remained in town Friday were either seen packing their cars with clothing and other belongings for their latest evacuation or staying out of sight.

"It is a little frustrating," said Sarah Ettman. "It's martial law here, basically. You know there are looters being caught and there are so many gawkers and people that just have no business being in here."

Rescuers were busy probing thick muck, swollen creeks and tangled trees with poles in search of seven missing people while dogs sniffed for bodies.

A crew found the body of the 18th victim, Joseph Bleckel, 87, before noon in his home near Romero Canyon, Brown said.

The cause of Bleckel's death wasn't announced, but all other victims died from multiple traumatic injuries due to a flash flood and mudslides.

The seven missing people included Fabiola Benitez, the mother of Jonathan Benitez, a 10-year-old killed in the flooding.

Benitez lived with her sister-in-law, Marilyn Ramos, 27, who was asleep with her daughter, Kaelly, 3, when mud crashed through their Montecito rental home, carrying both to their deaths.

"My sister was such a good person, she only thought of others to the point that she would cry with you when you were hurt or sick," said Ramos' sister, Jennifer Ramos, pausing to sob for several seconds.

The husbands of both women and the 2-year-old son of Fabiola Benitez, were hospitalized with injuries, Ramos said.

Drenching rains that unleashed the deadly torrents managed to finally contain the largest wildfire in state history, which burned for weeks above Montecito and stripped the steep hills of vegetation, making it prone to mudslides. The U.S. Forest Service announced Friday that the fire that burned 440 square miles (1,140 square kilometers) was fully contained.

While Montecito is best known as a getaway for the rich and famous — the median home price among current listings is more than $4 million — there are also working families living in modest houses and apartments.

With most utilities out of commission or about to be cut off, staying behind was not an option for many.

Ettman's home was undamaged, and her section of town still had gas and electricity, even though nearby Romero Creek was choked with cars, trees and rocks.

But with gas and power expected to be shut off Saturday and sewage running into the nearby creek, she decided to heed the order to leave.

"I mean you're losing all your basic health and sanitation services," she said. "When those go down, you have to leave."

___

Melley contributed from Los Angeles. Associated Press writers Amanda Lee Myers, John Antczak, Michael Balsamo and Andrew Dalton in Los Angeles and Aron Ranen in Montecito contributed to this report.

___

Follow Weber at https://twitter.com/WeberCM.

  • Associated Categories: U.S. News, Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top U.S. News short headlines, Top General short headlines, AP Business, AP Business - Industries, AP Business - Utilities
© Copyright 2018 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Most of mudslide-stricken California town told to empty out
Most residents of mudslide-ravaged Montecito are under orders to clear out as the search for victims drags on and crews labor to clean up the muck and repair power, water and gas lines
9:23PM ( 2 minutes ago )
Has flu season, in full swing, reached its height?
Flu is blanketing the US, but officials think it may decline soon
9:08PM ( 18 minutes ago )
Deadly California slide swept mother, daughter from beds
Marilyn Ramos was asleep in bed with her 3-year-old daughter, Kaelly Benitez, when the deadly mudslide came crashing through their Montecito rental home, carrying both to their deaths along with Kaelly's 10-year-old cousin
8:26PM ( 1 hour ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Man who escaped Hawaii hospital had fake IDs, phones, cash
Court documents say a man who escaped from a Hawaii psychiatric hospital and flew to California was caught with two high-quality fake IDs, two cellphones and more than $6,000 in cash
7:52PM ( 1 hour ago )
Texas father charged with murder in death of Indian orphan
Father of girl whose body was found in a culvert indicted on a capital murder charge
7:24PM ( 2 hours ago )
White House doctor: Trump in 'excellent health'
President Donald Trump's White House doctor is declaring him in 'excellent health' after the president's first medical checkup as president
7:12PM ( 2 hours ago )
AP National News
Kentucky is first to get OK for Medicaid work requirement
Kentucky has become the first state to win approval from the Trump administration requiring many of its Medicaid recipients to work to receive coverage
5:12PM ( 4 hours ago )
Sex abuse, political turmoil overshadow pope in Chile, Peru
Pope Francis' trip to Chile and Peru, aimed at highlighting the plight of indigenous peoples and the Amazon ecosystem, is being overshadowed by the Catholic Church's dismal record on confronting priestly sex abuse in Chile and political turmoil in Peru
4:48PM ( 4 hours ago )
Trump's own words revive debate over whether he's racist
Trump's own words revive debate over whether he's racist
4:38PM ( 4 hours ago )
AP Online National News
Donaldson, Bryant set records ahead of arbitration swap
Third basemen Josh Donaldson and Kris Bryant set records when they were among 145 players who agreed to one-year deals rather than swap proposed salaries in arbitration with their teams
8:07PM ( 1 hour ago )
New fantasy sports game revives sports betting concerns
A leading daily fantasy sports company has launched a new contest for the NFL playoffs, but some gambling experts suggest the company is violating federal law
7:56PM ( 1 hour ago )
Senator questions protecting Florida from drilling
The Trump administration may have violated federal law by exempting Florida from a plan to expand offshore drilling, a Democratic senator charged Thursday
7:04PM ( 2 hours ago )
AP Business
Texas tycoon T. Boone Pickens shutters energy hedge fund
Oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens is closing his Dallas energy-focused hedge fund after what he described as "one hell of a roller coaster ride."
1:09PM ( 8 hours ago )
Core inflation jumped a sharp 0.3 percent in December
Core inflation posted 0.3 percent increase in December, the biggest rise in 11 months
1:04PM ( 8 hours ago )
Some utility rates could go down after US corporate tax cuts
Public utility regulators nationwide are re-examining rates that homeowners and businesses pay for electricity and natural gas after a federal tax overhaul signed into law by President Donald Trump reduced the corporate income tax rate by 14 percent
10:46AM ( 10 hours ago )
AP Business - Industries
Senator: Drilling plan carve-out for Florida may be illegal
The Trump administration may have violated federal law by exempting Florida from a plan to expand offshore drilling, a Democratic senator charged Thursday
6:44PM ( 1 day ago )
Auto efficiency makes gains, but falls short of targets
New data show gas mileage for 2016 model year vehicles sold in the U.S. made smaller than expected gains in fuel economy over the last year, though new cars are generally sipping less gas and spewing less planet-warming carbon emissions
4:54PM ( 1 day ago )
Coal executive's 'action plan' finds success under Trump
A coal company executive's wish list of actions that seek to roll back environmental and mine safety regulations has caught the eye of the Trump administration
10:22AM ( 1 day ago )
AP Business - Utilities
Has flu season, in full swing, reached its height?
Flu is blanketing the US, but officials think it may decline soon
9:08PM ( 18 minutes ago )
Deadly California slide swept mother, daughter from beds
Marilyn Ramos was asleep in bed with her 3-year-old daughter, Kaelly Benitez, when the deadly mudslide came crashing through their Montecito rental home, carrying both to their deaths along with Kaelly's 10-year-old cousin
8:26PM ( 1 hour ago )
Josh Donaldson agrees to $23M, 1-year deal with Blue Jays
Third baseman Josh Donaldson and the Toronto Blue Jays agreed to a $23 million contract, the largest one-year deal for an arbitration-eligible player, topping Bryce Harper's $21,625,000 salary this year with Washington
8:20PM ( 1 hour ago )
Mudslide-stricken California town is all but emptied out
Most residents of mudslide-ravaged Montecito are under orders to clear out as the search for victims drags on and crews labor to clean up the muck and repair power, water and gas lines
8:16PM ( 1 hour ago )
FBI knew Las Vegas gunman had big gun stashes, records say
Documents show that FBI agents knew the gunman behind the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history left behind big stashes of guns, ammunition and explosives when they sought warrants to search his properties and online accounts
8:15PM ( 1 hour ago )